Graham Center Students
Prepare for Public Service
Retired U.S. Senator Bob Graham chats with a group of students
enrolled in the center’s public leadership program.
After reading Senator Bob Graham’s 2004
book Intelligence Matters, Logan Perel knew he wanted to dedicate himself
to a life of public service. Luckily, the Delray Beach native didn’t
have to go far to pursue the kind of training he will need as a future
policy maker. The Bob Graham Center
for Public Service has launched a certificate
program in public leadership aimed at training tomorrow’s public
leaders and Perel was one of the first students to enroll.
leadership is damaging to the future of our country,” said
Perel, a political science major. “The next generation cannot simply
sit back and wait for change—we must actively participate and provoke
Through coursework and practical experience, Graham Center
students gain the skills and knowledge necessary for effective and ethical
leadership careers. The certificate has been designed to complement major
programs offered across the university, including the natural sciences,
humanities, social sciences, journalism, and business. Its alumni are expected
to go into a wide variety of fields, in addition to law, politics and government
“Many students will be working in the private sector, but questions
of governing and public policy touch all our lives and this program can
give students some of the tools they need to understand these issues,” said
David Hedge, political
science professor and academic programs director
for the Graham Center. “The
idea is that the problems governments face are not one-dimensional. We
need to look at policy problems from different perspectives and draw upon
Jessica Hand, a political science major pursing
a minor in agriculture and natural resource policy, said she decided to
enroll in the program to prepare for a future in county or city politics. “I
intend to pursue a master’s degree
in urban and regional planning and then return to my hometown to work as
a public planner,” Hand said. “I also would like to run for
a county office, because I feel that there is currently a lack of leadership
in the local government where I am from. I believe that earning this certificate
is the first step towards preparing me to fill that void.”
“Poor public leadership is damaging to the future of our country.
The next generation cannot simply sit back and wait for change—
actively participate and provoke change.”
science and history double major Sara Meerow believes the program will
prepare her for law school. “I enrolled because I am interested in
public policy, wanted to hone my leadership skills and intern in politics,
and because I have always admired Bob Graham,” she said.
students must have a minimum 3.25 GPA and have already completed the university’s
general education requirements. Once enrolled, they are expected to earn
18 hours of credit in public affairs courses, including Writing for Public
Leadership, Florida Since 1845, Economics and Public Policy, and Current
Controversies in Public Policy. They also must complete a public affairs
internship. Outside the classroom, Graham students benefit from the diverse
list of speakers the center brings to campus—rubbing elbows with
local, state and national leaders.
“The theory that is taught in class is complemented by the experiences
of the speakers that the Graham Center brings in,” said Ben Cavataro, a
political science major and religion minor. “I joined the program
to learn from both theorists and practitioners.”
The center is in the process of designing bachelor’s and master’s
degree programs in public policy. For now, Hedge says the certificate in public
leadership will continue to evolve according to student demand and interest.
Although the program has only been in place for a year, two dozen students have
been recruited and are taking policy courses and serving as interns at the local,
state, national, and even international levels. “The students are amazing,” Hedge
said. “These are very bright individuals who care deeply about critical
—Buffy Lockette & Heather Read
In addition to the Graham Center’s new undergraduate certificate
in public leadership, the UF Department
of Political Science offers a Master
of Arts degree in political science with a special emphasis on political
campaigning and practical politics. The goal of this bipartisan program
is to provide students with knowledge and skills relevant to a wide variety
of political roles, including: running for public office, campaign management,
opinion polling, media, public relations, political and private-sector
fundraising, grassroots mobilization, lobbying and issue advocacy, international
consulting, and serving as an aide to government officials.
is designed to provide students with the basic skills, insights and experiences
critical for success in the ever-changing profession of politics and political
consulting. Unlike other programs in professional politics, the University
of Florida’s M.A. in political campaigning
combines the best of both academic study and practical experience. By incorporating
academic study in the fields of voting behavior, political participation,
public opinion, and political communications; students are presented with
a sound theoretical basis that can be used to better understand the “how
and why” of political campaigns.
Alumni include Florida’s former
Assistant Secretary of State David Rancourt (M.A., 1990) and Shannon McAleavey
(M.A., 1994), Vice President of Government Relations at Walt Disney World.
U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who earned an M.A.
from the program in 1990, said it gave her a strong foundation for her
career in public service.
“My degree certainly caught the eye of elected officials when I first
looked for a job,” Schultz said. “And the experiences I had as
a student, particularly the opportunity to wage a mock campaign, helped give
me the confidence I needed to run for office myself.”
For more information about the program, visit www.polisci.ufl.edu/campaign.
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